LINGUIST List 4.444

Wed 09 Jun 1993

Sum: Nominal and verbal predication

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  1. Susan Herring, Summary: nominal and verbal predication

Message 1: Summary: nominal and verbal predication

Date: Tue, 8 Jun 93 00:52:24 CDTSummary: nominal and verbal predication
From: Susan Herring <>
Subject: Summary: nominal and verbal predication

This is a summary of the responses I received to my typological query
several weeks back regarding nominal and verbal predication.
The query essentially asked for information about languages that show
a preference for either nominal or verbal predication.

The query was posted simultaneously on two lists, LINGUIST and FUNKNET.
A total of 28 people responded, 16 from LINGUIST (12 male, 4 female)
and 12 from FUNKNET (6 male, 6 female). The results are summarized
under the headings: I. Languages; II. Diachrony; and III. Recommended

I. Languages
The following languages/language families were suggested as being
especially 'nouny':

1. Austronesian (3 mentions, viz Palauan, Tongan, and Proto-Austronesian)
2. Gaelic (2 mentions)
3. Tibeto-Burman (2 mentions)
4. Turkish (2 mentions, one specifically for journalistic prose)
5. Carib (2 mentions)
6. Biblical Hebrew (2 mentions)
7. Mopan [Mayan] (1 mention)
8. Greenlandic Eskimo (1 mention)
9. Luiseno (1 mention)
10. Mandarin (1 mention)
11. Lushootseed [Salish] (1 mention, with specific reference to negation)

Suggestions for 'verby' languages were far fewer:

1. Iroquois (2 mentions)
2. Siouan (1 mention)
3. Huichol [Uto-Aztecan] (1 mention)
 and, interestingly,
4. Gaelic (3 mentions, all citing the literal translation of 'John
 is a nurse' as 'John is in his nursing')

II. Diachrony
Several respondents observed that the distinction between nominal and
verbal predication may not always be clear, given the tendency for
nominal predicates to be reanalyzed diachronically as verbal predicates
(although the inverse does not appear to take place). Nozomi Kodama
provided a nice example from Japanese:

 will come coming (one)
OJ ku kuru
ModJ kuru kuru no

As part of the process of reanalysis, the nominalizing morpheme often
comes to be interpreted as an aspect marker. Thus in Modern Japanese,
-mono- 'thing' functions as a nominalizer in

boku-ga kaita mono/no da 'that which I wrote'

and a marker of habitual aspect in

boku-ga tegami-o kaita mono da 'I used to write letters'
I-NOM letter-ACC write-PAST NZR COP (lit. 'my letter-writing was')

Instances of erstwhile nominalizers grammaticalizing as perfective
and imperfective aspect markers were also cited.

III. Recommended References
Hengevald, Kees. 1992. Non-verbal predication: Theory, typology,
 diachrony. Mouton de Gruyter. (2 mentions)

Croft, William. 1991. Syntactic categories and grammatical relations.
 University of Chicago Press.

An article by Leon Stassen in:
Kefer, Michel & van der Auwera, Johan (eds.) 1992. Meaning and grammar:
 Cross-linguistic perspectives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
(Leon Stassen is also apparently writing a book on this topic)

Two recent Ph.D dissertations:
Harry Wetzer, Katholieke Universiteit, Nijmegen, 1992? (directed by
Leon Stassen)

Spike Gildea, University of Oregon, Eugene, 1993? [on the reanalysis
of nominalization as aspect marking].

Finally, Dedre Gentner has apparently published on the psycholinguistic
processing and acquisition of nouns vs. verbs [precise references not

Thanks to everyone who responded:

LINGUIST: Paul Black, Eve Danziger, Carol Georgopoulos, Jorge
 Hankamer, Soren Harder, Nabil Hathout, Yoshiko Ito, Ellen
 Kaisse, Nozomi Kodama, John Koontz, Randy La Polla, Lachlan
 Mackenzie, Stavros Macrakis, John McCranie, Kevin O'Donnelly,
 Sze-wing Tang

FUNKNET: Wally Chafe, Ann Cooreman, Bill Croft, Carol Genetti, Dedre
 Gentner, Tom Givon, Joe Grimes, Martin Haspelmath, Marianne
 Mithun, Doris Payne, Malcolm Ross, Eve Sweetser


Susan Herring
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